Maryland's Late-Season State Park Deer Hunts

Maryland's Late-Season State Park Deer Hunts

Photo by Mark Werner

Lengthy seasons -- bowhunts in particular -- allow for plenty of remaining time for in-the-field experiences. Maryland's state park system is home to several potential hunts.

Our state parks come in a wide variety of settings that correspond to the diverse habitat found in Maryland. Likewise, the "use" aspect differs greatly. Some parks, particularly those near population centers, are considered multi-use, due to the wide range of activities found there.

These areas tend to provide an assortment of amenities. Hunting, though allowed in many instances, is more tightly managed, given the nature of these tracts. Other parks are much less developed, and a somewhat broader scope of hunting opportunities is often found there.

During the late season, deer-hunting options entail the tag end of the bow season, which began back in September. If you're reading this in December, you may be able to sneak out in the woods before the late muzzleloader season concludes.

George Timko serves as the urban deer biologist for the Maryland Department of Natural Resource's (DNR's) Wildlife and Heritage Division. Because some of the state's parks fall within suburban areas, I asked Timko how state parks and similar state properties figure in the overall deer-management picture.

"Our park managers, our natural resources professionals who manage natural environment areas, natural resource areas or parks -- and they are not the same, they are designated differently -- they have increasingly become aware of the need to manage the resident deer herd on those properties to conserve the habitat and to preserve the natural balance of the deer. It also promotes the stewardship of the natural resources of those areas. More and more hunting access has become more open on those areas because of those reasons.

"Hunters are getting the benefit of additional hunting opportunities. But they are also seen in a more positive light by the public, in that hunters are helping to keep that balance between deer and habitat. Hunters are increasingly being used as stewards of the natural resource," he said.

"Deer hunters need to keep their eyes open to the overall picture of deer management, not just the trophy aspects of the sport. It's given the hunters a pretty good benefit. A lot of these areas are looking toward hunters as a tool. That's definitely the positive side of deer management."

What follows is a look at the separate state parks, and the deer hunting options they provide. These are places where you can pick up and go to right now.

UCKAHOE STATE PARK

The 3,500-acre Tuckahoe State Park (SP) is located on the Eastern Shore, in the southern portion of Queen Anne's County. Deer hunters will find a variety of settings in which to hunt deer on this gem of a state park. Its location puts it within easy reach of hunters from the Annapolis area, and within a reasonable drive from the Baltimore area.

"Tuckahoe State Park is bordered by Tuckahoe Creek, a tributary of the Choptank River," said Timko. "The creek runs along most of the length of the park. The habitat includes a significant amount of wooded marshland. What you will find basically is wooded stream corridors along flooded bottomlands. There are also a lot of areas that are interfaced with agricultural lands. So it's very good deer habitat."

Hunters have had some success on Tuckahoe in the past. During the 2005 season, Timko notes, the reported harvest at Tuckahoe was six bucks and 20 does.

Hunting on Tuckahoe is permitted during all of the regulated hunting seasons. But prior to hunting, you are obligated to sign yourself in via an honor system in the parking lots.

There are no specially managed deer hunts on Tuckahoe. Deer hunters visiting Tuckahoe may pursue deer via the standard state seasons that are in place. A system of hiking trails is located in the park.

According to the DNR, Tuckahoe SP is approximately 35 miles east of the Bay Bridge, just off state Route (SR) 404, on the Eastern Shore. Additional information on Tuckahoe can be obtained by calling the park office at (410) 820-1668. A park map can be downloaded from their Web site, www.DNR.State.MD.us/publiclands/maps/tuckahoemap.html

CHAPEL POINT STATE PARK

Southern Maryland's Charles County is the home of Chapel Point, another state park land that provides a variety of hunting habitats and pursuits. And deer hunting is among these activities.

Beginning last season, the DNR created the Managed Hunt Permit, which is required for some state park hunts.

Chapel Point SP is located on the Port Tobacco River, a tributary of the Potomac River. "It is considered an undeveloped multi-use park. Hunting is permitted on the majority of the state property, which is about 600 acres of the park. The habitat found on Chapel Point is varied, and supports not only white-tailed deer, but small-game species, too, such as quail, squirrels and rabbits. Wild turkeys are also found on Chapel Point. Waterfowl hunting is popular on this state park as well, and some waterfowl blinds are found there."

As far as deer hunting is concerned, Chapel Point is divided up into smaller parcels. This allows hunting pressure to be regulated in each area of the huntable portion of the park.

"There are sign-in boxes located in the parking lots," notes Timko. "Hunters must park in designated parking areas. The sign-in box requires you to list your name, time and date. Once that sign-in sheet is full for the day, no more hunters are allowed on the property. It's a first- come, first-served affair."

A maximum of 45 hunters is allowed on the portion of Chapel Point that's open to hunting. As with Tuckahoe, hunting on Chapel Point is open during statewide deer seasons.

Chapel Point SP is located in southern Charles County approximately five miles south of La Plata. From the intersection of SR 6 and U.S. Route 301, take Route 301 south to Chapel Point Road. Follow Chapel Point Road in a westerly direction for approximately 2.3 miles to the park entrance.

For more specific details on the deer hunting on Chapel Point SP, contact the folks at Smallwood State Park at (301) 743-7613. An area map of the park can be downloaded by visiting the DNR's Web site at www.dnr.State.MD.us/publiclands/southern/chapelmap.html

ST. MARY'S RIVER

STATE PARK

St. Mary's River SP is located in St. Mary's County. The park covers over 2,200 acres. Last year, according to Timko, Maryland hunters bagged eight antlered and 38 antlerless deer on St. Mary's SP.

The park is found on the northern end of the St. Mary's River watershed. A range of habitats is found there, including wooded areas, fields, swamps, and small streams.

The park is separated into two areas, sites 1 and 2. Site 1 contains 250 acres and essentially St. Mary's Lake. It is located near the town of Greenville.

"Site 2 is the more extensive area, and will be of more interest to hunters," said Timko. "It contains 2,200 acres and has a wild lands area. This is primarily undeveloped habitat. This area is managed for hunting. In addition to white-tailed deer, the area provides hunting for small-game species such as squirrels and rabbits.

"The deer hunting on the state park begins with the statewide bow season opener. Like the parks we've previously discussed, deer hunting on St. Mary's is open to standard statewide deer seasons."

This state park provides designated parking areas for hunters. An added day-use fee may be charged, which is $3 for residents. Inquire about this fee when contacting the state park for additional details on the hunting regulations there.

You can obtain more information on St. Mary's State Park by phoning the office of Point Lookout State Park at (301) 872-5688. Download a map by logging on to the Web site, www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/southern/stmarysmap.html

SENECA CREEK SP

The state parks previously described are located in the state's rural areas and as such, are more loosely managed in regard to hunting. Many state parks are found in suburban settings, and these too provide deer hunting opportunities.

Given their suburban location, some of these places provide a chance of making contact with an older age-class buck. Montgomery County's Seneca Creek State Park, spanning over 6,000 acres, is such a park.

The "traditional" hunting area found within Seneca Creek State Park is a 1,000-odd-acre tract located along River Road. Within this section, standard statewide deer-hunting seasons and regulations apply. Timko said that more of the park has been opened up to hunting, however, adding significant opportunities for bowhunters.

"There are separate parcels within the park," he noted. "They are spread out across urban and rural Montgomery County. There is a lot of ground there. We just added 2,220 acres to the hunting area of the park. This is in additional to the 1,100 acres down near the river that have always been open to hunting. Access has always been an issue. But we've been able to open up to bowhunting many of the places that have been closed in the past."

Timko said that last year, hunters bagged 64 antlered deer and 211 antlerless deer on all of the state properties that make up Seneca.

"That's pretty significant when it comes to park hunting," he noted.

Regulations-wise, due to its suburban setting and multi-use status, things become a bit more complicated on Seneca Creek. Timko said that regulations change in regard to the area being hunted. Some areas require the special Managed Deer Hunt Permit. Others don't, because they were open prior to the bill's passage. (More on that permit shortly.)

Timko added that efforts are being made to open more of the park to hunting, so that things are subject to change -- though it would seem any changes would likely benefit hunters.

"Seneca Creek State Park is comprised of a mix of hardwood woodlots, surrounded by a lot of agricultural lands," he pointed out. "Suburbia also is part of the mix. Hunters who are keying in on bucks, older age-class bucks in particular, will want to look at those areas with a little more scrutiny. Obviously, deer can grow older where they can live longer. They will grow larger racks. Our goal is to better manage the deer herd -- to keep the damage to the habitat within reason, as well as to keep the neighbors happy."

As far as deer hunting is concerned, Chapel Point is divided up into smaller parcels. This allows hunting pressure to be regulated in each area of the huntable portion of the park.

Additional information on Seneca Creek SP can be obtained by calling the state park office at (301) 924-2127. The park is located in Montgomery County.

DNR MANAGED

HUNT PERMIT

Beginning last season, the DNR created the Managed Hunt Permit, which is required for some state park hunts. It costs $35 and is valid statewide anywhere the DNR charges for public hunting access.

"The permit is not needed on public areas such as our wildlife management areas," said Timko. "Those properties were purchased specifically with hunting in mind. The Managed Hunt Permit applies to properties such as some state parks, natural environment areas and natural resources management areas. As far as state parks are concerned, basically the permit would be needed at places that formally charged an additional fee to hunt there.

Certain DNR properties have "managed" hunts, which entail lotteries and further restrictions that include a pre-qualification card, hunter safety card or other requirements. In these instances, the permit gives the hunter the privilege of applying for those hunts.

GENERAL STATE PARK HUNTING REGULATIO

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According to the DNR, hunting is allowed in many state parks from September 1 through the end of the spring turkey season . . . with exceptions. Trapping, raccoon hunting and fox chasing are allowed in some park areas by permit only. Park hours and days of operation are subject to change. A Managed Deer Permit may be required on some state parks.

Hunting devices are sometimes restricted, so it is important to call the facility before hunting. Licensed hunters may carry firearms and bows across closed sections of state parks by during regular hunting seasons in order to reach park, private or other state areas open to hunting. These hunting devices must be unloaded and cased, carried with the breech open or broken. Arrows must be kept in a quiver.

Tree stands are limited to those of a temporary nature and must be removed or dismantled at the end of each day. No one may construct permanent tree stands in state park areas.

Since regulations differ from park to park, it is important to call the office of the state park in question before planning a hunt.

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